Chances are, if you’ve made the trek to The OC recently, Disneyland was your destination. Just a quick flight or half-day road trip away, Orange County has so much more to offer than just Mickey Mouse: stunning beaches, family-friendly culinary experiences and tons more things to see and do while you’re there. Winter and spring are great times to plan a trip down south as the weather is warmer than our sometimes-dreary Bay Area days. We’ve gathered a boatload of options for you, so tack on some extra days to your next Disney trip to explore all that The OC has to offer.
Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park
Snoopy runs the show over at Knott’s Berry Farm where even the smallest adventure-seekers will be in heaven. Start your visit off by taking a stroll through the ghost town to hop aboard the Calico Railroad for a round-trip tour of the park. Camp Snoopy caters to the super shorties with rides like Rocky Mountain Trucking Company (where they can drive the most adorable mini 18-wheelers) and Linus Launcher (where kids go belly-down on Linus’ blanket). Splash down in the family-favorite Timber Mountain Log Ride or enjoy a wild west stunt show at Frontier Feats of Wonder. There are giant roller coasters for the grown-ups and even the Pony Express ride where you climb aboard your trusty steed and get launched into the air!
Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour, Buena Park
After your day at Knott’s Berry Farm, swing by Farrell’s Ice Cream
where you can order “meatloaf and mashed potatoes” from the dessert menu. (Surprise the kids. It’s totally worth it!) If you are there at mealtime, the Old MacFarrell’s burger is full of the drippy goodness that you can only get when you combine a fried egg with Farrell’s famous sauce atop a juicy burger. Be sure you let your server know if you are celebrating a birthday or other special occasion – they will make you feel like a star!
Balboa Fun Zone, Newport Beach
Old-school boardwalk fun rules the day at Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach. Ride the iconic Ferris Wheel – in operation since 1936 – and enjoy arcade games, bike rentals and even a nautical museum. Want to check out nearby Balboa Island? The kids will love taking the auto ferry from the fun zone across the water. Pedestrians, bikes and cars are all welcome. Be sure to grab one of the island’s famous frozen bananas, dipped in chocolate of course.
If a true California beach day is what you are after, then head to Huntington Beach. Miles of soft sand, volleyball nets as far as the eye can see and marine life galore makes it a great spot to spread out your blanket for a day in the sun. Park in any of the beach lots near the pier or even at the newly-built Pacific City shopping center where you can grab some fresh eats at Lemonade before you cross the street and hit the sand. Before you head back to your Buena Park hotel for the day, take the kids to the end of the pier for some old-fashioned milkshakes at Ruby’s Diner.